It has been a satisfying journey for casting director Shruti Mahajan ever since she got here to Mumbai and assisted Yash Raj Movies within the casting division. In her profession spanning over 12-13 years, she has completed casting for 50 tasks. She just lately did casting for R Balki’s section in Lust Tales 2 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s net sequence Heeramandi.
In an unique dialog with ETimes, Shruti spoke candidly about her journey, her expertise with R Balki and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, her choice course of and plenty of extra.
How was your expertise casting for Lust Tales 2?
I’ve completed casting for R Balki’s story which stars Neena Gupta, Mrunal Thakur and Angad Bedi. I’ve been working with Balki for a very long time now. And positively through the years you develop an incredible working rapport, equation and understanding. I get pleasure from working with him as a result of he’s a director who likes to assume out of the field. And he likes to experiment. I feel that could be very thrilling and difficult for a casting director. He likes to get choices which aren’t very common, that are very completely different. It is enjoyable jamming with him. In his final movie Chup additionally, you will notice that the casting could be very completely different and distinctive. He believes that storytelling must be in a means that the characters ought to be very relatable. And we wished to create a center class, city India. And that is how our casting was. Be it the woman’s household or the boy’s aspect of the household. So it is a number of enjoyable working with him.
Does he at all times offer you a particular requirement or do you get the liberty to decide on?
He collaborates. A belief builds over a time period whenever you work with a director. You perceive the director who believes in you and your expertise and so they know that you just perceive their imaginative and prescient. So he provides you a sure freedom and that freedom comes with a number of duty. So in my case, I at all times really feel that I am extra accountable relating to administrators who fully belief in me and my beliefs.
What made you assume that Neena Gupta, Mrunal Thakur, Angad Bedi had been excellent match for this explicit section?
When the script was shared, R Balki was like, ‘I want a minimum of one quirky grandmother.’ So in one among our casting classes, we got here up with the thought of Neena Gupta whereas jamming. Her title popped up and Mr Balki bought very excited. You at all times see Neena as this very candy, easy, good motherly determine on display. And to have someone who’s a really quirky, humorous, cool grandmother, we thought that will be a really out of the field casting. And Mr Balki knew that the strains that had been written had been so Neena-ji. She has a sure fashion of claiming a number of severe issues, however together with her complete humour. And that is what was required for a script like this. It is a severe matter. It is a topic. It might probably get right into a sleazy zone if not delivered effectively. He was satisfied that solely Neena-ji can pull off one thing like this. After which, after all, what you see on display, it simply bought translated so superbly.
Do you audition or do look checks relating to casting such senior actors in a challenge?
It relies upon from challenge to challenge, actor to actor, director to director. Numerous administrators have labored with these actors earlier than. In order that they understand how they’re and so they have an incredible physique of labor. However there are specific administrators, like after I forged for Ram Leela, Supriya Pathak auditioned for it. So actors are very open now. They perceive that it is a course of and so they respect that course of. If the director feels the necessity to audition or do a glance check and we discuss to an actor, the actors are very open to it now. They usually perceive that, you realize, issues are altering. It is a very Hollywood fashion of labor. So they do not take objection to that. And administrators additionally perceive. If in case you have a really senior actor, you realize their potential, you realize their capabilities then additionally they really feel it isn’t essential to audition them. So, I feel it is an understanding and in addition a requirement, which each the director and actor perceive.

How was your expertise with Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
I’ve labored with Mr Bhansali from Ram Leela. I simply really feel that I’ve discovered a lot from it. Ram Leela was my first movie as a casting director, as an unbiased casting director. So, I’ve grown with him. And whenever you develop with someone with a sure manufacturing home as a director, you develop an incredible bond, which I’ve created over a few years now, 10-11 years I’ve labored with him. So, there’s a nice respect, understanding and we even have comparable working ethics. I feel that is actually necessary. I perceive what he desires. I perceive his fashion of working. He provides me that freedom, that freeway like whereas casting for Gangubai Kathiawadi. And also you see the casting in Gangubai could be very completely different from his earlier movies. So, casting for Mr Bhansali is at all times enjoyable and difficult and I look ahead to it as a result of he’s such a perfectionist. And he has a Bhansali world. He likes to create movies which might be bigger than life. His casting can be bigger than life. And he additionally has very sturdy girls characters in his movies apart from the lead. His expectations for each movie for me really simply grows. Now what subsequent? So, for me as a casting director, I am like, ‘Oh, deliver it on. Let’s have extra enjoyable.’ And he is not going to be okay with something that you just give him. He has his fashion. He pushes you however doesn’t make you are feeling that you’re being pushed. So, that is his magnificence. He understands how I work. I perceive how he works. I’ve super respect for him. And through the years, he additionally has a sure perception and belief in me, which I at all times wish to dwell as much as.
For Mr Balki additionally, I really feel it is enjoyable as a result of whenever you work with sure administrators for a protracted time period, it is an exquisite bond that you just create. And that bond now makes you give your greater than 100% as a result of they develop such a belief think about you that you do not wish to allow them to down. They usually additionally see that you just’re giving your 100% or perhaps extra. They at all times see that I’m there. They see me fingers on with my casting. They see I get so concerned greater than casting. I additionally attempt to give my enter on a sure character whereas studying the script as a result of casting is one division which comes within the scripting stage after which casting is available in. They at all times respect my enter. I additionally assume like an viewers. In order that they like that enter. They take that enter very positively. The suggestions that’s given, they attempt to sit with me, perceive why I mentioned such a factor. I get entangled in the entire course of of constructing an incredible movie. It turns into like your personal child and also you wish to nurture it. You wish to shield it. You wish to give your finest.
What sort of course of do you comply with whereas casting for a personality?
It begins with getting the script. And after studying the script, I make my factors. I make my notes. After which I met up with the director. The director provides his imaginative and prescient, his enter. And I give my enter, how I really feel a few character. After which the method of shortlist, audition, presentation, all of that begins. After which more often than not it is by means of auditions. Then we try to get the best particular person as per the requirement, age requirement. There is a language requirement. There is a explicit bodily requirement. So preserving all these issues in thoughts, auditions occur and one of the best man or the lady wins.
How simple or tough is it so that you can select a sure actor for a specific character?

It is like asking a physician, how do you remedy a illness. (laughs) If you’ve labored for 12 years, casting is in the back of your thoughts. It is one thing which is second nature to you. I get pleasure from casting. I do not see this as a stress. I at all times see it as a problem. And I really like challenges. Each challenge I really feel is so new to me, recent to me. And it is like bringing it on sort of a sense. Each new script that involves me, I really like the scent. I by no means inform them to ship me an electronic mail. I like a bounded copy. As a result of it is enjoyable to get a brand new script. I maintain amassing it. So there’s one shelf in my office, which has solely scripts. And each time I take a look at my shelf, (I get) that feeling of, you realize, that is what I’ve created. So casting is one thing that I actually get pleasure from. I get pleasure from it, I look ahead to it.
So that you go along with your intuition?
I’m going with my intuition. And there is a course of. And in that course of, there’s a sure intuition and a intestine that works. There’s additionally your reminiscence. I really feel as a casting director, your reminiscence must be very sharp. It’s important to bear in mind the actors. It’s important to bear in mind faces. So it is slightly math and slightly intuition, which is unexplainable. So there’s a method and there’s something that does not work with the method. It is a mixture of each. So there are such a lot of occasions when an actor walks in and you’re feeling, ‘Oh, I do not assume that particular person will be capable of.’ You would possibly simply assume since you’ve seen their physique of labor earlier and also you assume, ‘Oh, perhaps that particular person won’t be.’ However they get one thing so completely different on the desk that it simply blows your thoughts. And then you definitely take it to your director and also you inform your director that I noticed one thing very distinctive. And that is the place the director believes in your imaginative and prescient, your intestine, your expertise. They usually say, ‘Let’s do that subsequent spherical. Let’s do one thing. I’ve by no means seen a personality like this.’ Like when Jim Sarbh was forged for Padmaavat, his audition was so thoughts blowing, that you just simply assume, ‘Oh, my God, that is it.’ You realize an actor has bought one thing very distinctive to that character. So that is what I really feel is the place the method would not work.
If you reject actors, and so they request you to audition them extra, how do you reply to such conditions?
Sure, they do request. And as a casting director, it’s my obligation to deal with a sure request. So my staff and I at all times be sure that we do not really feel like folks really feel rejected. That is the least we will do as human beings. However most actors perceive the method now. There are only a few actors who do not. And if I really feel like an actor actually feels rejected, then I will be sitting with them, it is like counselling them, making them perceive what went improper. And one has to only go by what has occurred and one has to respect the method.
We now have usually seen actors getting changed after getting finalised…
Filmmaking is an ongoing course of. Whereas it occurs, we at all times inform the actors that it is an ongoing course of. Possibly we have auditioned, we have forged you, however whereas the script remains to be growing, the character would possibly change. Possibly we had forged you pondering in thoughts, perhaps the requirement was a sure bodily kind, however that bodily kind has not labored. And perhaps in a glance check, once we see there isn’t a chemistry occurring. In the end, all of us have one frequent purpose, that’s to be true to the script. And if the script requires a sure different actor, then it is mindless that we forged someone after which we realise halfway that we have gone improper. If a script requirement is just not being met, then everyone is being unfair. So actors ought to perceive how we forged you. There are occasions when we aren’t in a position to forged you due to the change of script requirement.
In order that they at all times get readability about why they’re getting rejected?
We allow them to know. We inform them. They could really feel rejected, dejected, however we’re in a artistic discipline and in that artistic discipline, nothing is by the rule, by the e-book. It is an ongoing course of. Such as you do portray, one thing occurs in your thoughts throughout portray, however whenever you begin portray on a canvas, you realise that no, it isn’t shaping up the way in which, this isn’t what I would like. I’ve to alter. If you sing, you realise that this isn’t the best be aware. You might need discovered one thing, however that be aware is just not proper, so you alter it. You improvise it someplace. So equally, filmmaking can be a type of artwork.
Do actors maintain grudges at such occasions?
I’m positive human beings have such grudges. Nobody speaks brazenly. Actually, you inform them and also you make them perceive. No one has an agenda right here. We’re all right here attempting to make good cinema. What occurs is one thing which could be very completely different. However a minimum of all of us as a staff try to give our greatest. No one desires to make a flop movie. Everyone desires to make a great, significant, enjoyable, fascinating, thrilling story.
How do you are feeling when some tasks are usually not so profitable?
It is heartbreaking when it would not work. Particularly whenever you see a lot arduous work, effort, what occurs behind the scenes. It is like a lot labour of affection goes into each challenge. And when it would not do effectively, it is heartbreaking. It is actually heartbreaking. And naturally, when it is profitable, then everyone basks within the success. Everybody’s concept is to make a great, profitable movie. However sure, future is one thing else.
How did this career occur to you?
This career occurred to me round 12-13 years again. I come from a company background. I did my MBA, HR after which bought campus placement with the multinationals. I labored there, however very quickly I realised that I am not a 9-to-5 particular person. I’ve an excessive amount of storytelling in me. From faculty and school, I’ve at all times been very lively in performing arts and drama. After I went to Delhi for my additional research, I realised that I get pleasure from backstage extra. In Delhi College, drama theater could be very lively. I used to be in Girl Shri Ram Faculty and that is the place I bought an publicity backstage, behind the digicam. I feel that is the place it simply began for me. However coming from a typical Indian household the place they are saying, ‘Padhoge likhoge banoge nawab.’ So I needed to have a level. I made everyone within the household very glad. And now that you’ve completed all the pieces, bought my financial institution steadiness and so they had been like, ‘Jaa Simran jaa jee le apni zindagi (laughs).’ For me, it was all filmy in truth. I really went to YRF and mentioned that I wish to get into casting. As a result of I’ve completed HR in MBA, which could be very comparable. I knew that I loved that strategy of scouting, of getting the best folks in the best discipline. And I assisted at YRF within the casting division. And I labored there with a number of dedication and keenness in casting. After which one wonderful day I bought a name from Mr Bhansali’s workplace that he’s in search of a brand new casting director for his movie. And that is when Gangubai was supplied to me. Now I’ve completed 50 tasks. I used to be satisfied that I’m not made for company however I’m made for filmmaking.
So principally, you did not face any downside?
(laughs) I imply, I’ve made it sound very candy and easy. However you realize, you’re employed arduous, leaving a well-paid comfy job, and taking that leap of religion, whether or not you’ll make it or you’ll not make it. That is the massive query mark. I used to be an assistant. I had no wage. There was nothing. However ek conviction tha ki nahi mujhe yahi karna hai. I did safe myself. I mentioned to myself, ‘Agar maine do saal nahi bhi kamaya, toh bhi I will be secure sufficient, I will be safe sufficient to comply with my coronary heart and my goals.’ It was a effectively considered resolution and I at all times knew that even when it would not work out, I can fall again on a pleasant company job. As a result of actually, whenever you shut one door, solely then the opposite opens.
Are your mother and father now proud of what you are doing?
Yeah, they’re glad as a result of I’m glad and my mother and father actually nonetheless do not know what I do (laughs). They’re in Jaipur, they see my title on a display and so they’ll be like, ‘acha casting.’ Until date they assume ‘casting to director karta hai toh tum kaunsi casting director ho.’ And I like that purity. I like the actual fact after they come to Bombay and so they meet actors now and again and they’re heat to my mom, and so they’ll be like, ‘Aunty aapki daughter hello meri casting karti hai.’ My mom is like, ‘Acha yeh kya forged karte hai?’ with a query mark on her face (laughs). I really like that. I really like that feeling that I am nonetheless the child of the home and I can nonetheless get away with all of the nonsense. Yeah, so for them nothing modifications. They’re simply glad that I’m glad and I can maintain myself. My mother and father at all times wished me to be financially unbiased. And yeah, I imply, no matter you do there ought to be a number of respect to your work and other people ought to respect you.
Do you assume casting administrators do not get sufficient due credit score?
Sure. I see that casting has change into higher through the years. It is change into extra organised and persons are recognising manufacturing homes, actors, everyone is recognising the significance and it is changing into a extra respectable job with good casting administrators coming in. Jo pehle jaisa hota tha, abhi bhi hai however a minimum of now you realize there are specific folks with good intention, proper fashion of working. It’s got dignity to this job. So I really feel issues are getting higher. However sure, we’re nonetheless within the strategy of being an organised sector. And I feel as soon as we’re slightly extra organised, our casting job will likely be extra acceptable and recognised by folks. And we are going to get our due credit score.
Do you’ve got any plans to get in entrance of a digicam?
No, I do not wish to be an actor. 100% that’s one thing which I bought to know very quickly after I was in school (laughs). I began to get pleasure from behind the scenes greater than I get pleasure from being on the stage. I prefer to be a non-public particular person, however sure, I positively would wish to increase. There are tales that I wish to inform. So I positively see a producer in me.